The U.S. Census Bureau's reported hiring of a registered child sex offender to manage its Charlotte office has drawn the ire of North Carolina lawmakers -- some of whom are now insisting on an investigation into how the man's employ came about.
Kenneth Mabry, 44, had been listed on the state’s sex offender registry for several years before his hiring in August by the Census Bureau, according to a FOX46 investigation. Convicted in 2013 of the attempted molestation of an 11-year-old girl in Missouri, Mabry was sentenced to three years’ probation and was made to register as a sex offender for a minimum of ten years, FOX46 reported. His registration seemingly went unnoticed until March 12, however, when Mabry was arrested for allegedly “engaging in a sex act” with a 9-year-old girl.
“This hiring is incredibly concerning and should have been easily avoided," Sen. Tom Tillis, R-N.C., told FOX46. "This was clearly a failure on the part of the Census Bureau and we need to find out how this happened and how we can prevent such gross oversights moving forward.”
Democratic representatives Alma Adams and David Price have also joined the chorus of condemnation, demanding an investigation into Mabry's hiring.
Some of Mabry's former coworkers also expressed outrage, noting their concerns that Mabry had attended an array of child-friendly community events throughout his seven-month tenure, including church gatherings and local parades.
In his role with the Charlotte census office, Mabry -- who reportedly received a taxpayer-funded salary -- was in charge of the bureau's hiring.
In a statement, the Census Bureau said the former Charlotte manager is no longer an employee of the organization.
"His former position did not involve any door-to-door interviewing. While we cannot comment any further on ongoing personnel matters, the Census Bureau takes this matter very seriously. The Census Bureau remains committed to hiring practices that are fair and ensure safety to the public. We have rigorous hiring procedures and checks in place to catch these types of charges early on in the hiring process and deal with them in the appropriate manner, and we are training our employees to ensure that these procedures are followed," said the spokesperson. “We remain committed to hiring practices that are fair and ensure safety to the public,” the statement said. “We have rigorous hiring procedures and checks in place to catch these issues early in the hiring process and deal with them in the appropriate manner."
A spokesperson for the Department of Commerce, which presides over the Census Bureau, told Fox News Monday that “of course, Sen. Tillis and Rep. Price are justified in their outrage, and we share their deep concerns."
"We have spoken to the Census Bureau about this matter to ensure its hiring and vetting procedures are adhered to fully going forward," the statement continued. "The Office of Inspector General is evaluating the Bureau’s response to this issue, and we will review those findings with the Bureau to ensure we do everything possible to prevent this from happening again. This remains an ongoing personnel matter.”
Nonetheless, the OIG last year cautioned the Census Bureau its background checks were not up to standard.
“We found that the Bureau has developed policies and procedures for conducting background checks on temporary employees, but quality assurance weaknesses jeopardize the effectiveness of those procedures,” the report warned. “Public-opinion polling, conducted earlier this decade by the Bureau, indicated that U.S. residents are concerned about the risk associated with potentially hiring people with criminal backgrounds to work on the 2020 Census. The Bureau must mitigate this risk.”
Every decade, the Bureau hires thousands of employees across the nation to conduct the Census, which serves a critical role in determining the U.S. population, the distribution of federal funding and how many seats each state will be entitled to in the House of Representatives.
Mabry is expected back in court in July.